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A community disaster is defined as anything that overwhelms available resources to the point of not having enough resources to respond to all needs. According to Lemhi County Emergency Services Coordinator Janet Nelson there are many resources as well as written plans in place to cope with local emergency events.

She told the February 3 meeting of the Salmon City Council that it is her job to coordinate all the plans and services. Simply knowing what resources exist and where they are is vital to that coordination. As an example Nelson cited last year’s surprise flash flood event. When the supply of sandbags ran low she immediately knew who to call and arrangements were made to meet at Lone Pine where a truck load of sandbags was delivered. She said that flood has prompted a lot of valuable preparedness mitigation.

In her Power Point Presentation Nelson said the county would not have a strong hold on disaster management without the Lemhi County Emergency Operations Plan which lists every available resource and contact in the event of fire, earthquake, tornado or floods. There is also an All Hazard Mitigation Plan as well as a Communications Plan and Community Preparedness education and trainings. She said the written plans are each indexed and detailed to the point anyone can find what’s needed and who to contact in any given situation. The city has copies of the emergency plans.

There are Emergency Management Service (EMS) courses available for Hazardous Materials Training, Fire Training, CPR Classes, Wilderness Survival classes and classes in Incident Command which she highly recommended for all city and county officials. There is an “Are You Ready” awareness training linked to Public Health services which deals with what to do in the event of epidemics or viruses. Nelson said County’s Emergency Medical Services include the Salmon ambulance, the Leadore Ambulance, the Gibbonsville QRU (Quick Response Unit) and the Elk Bend QRU. She explained that the QRU personnel do not transport patients but can be on site and start providing medical care before the ambulance arrives.

The Salmon Search and Rescue organization provides emergency services such as white water rescues, high and low angle rescues, avalanche rescue and lost persons searches. Search and Rescue has a cadaver dog team and does all extraction for motor vehicle accidents. County Fire resources include the Salmon/Lemhi County Fire Protection District, the Leadore Fire Department, the Elk Bend Fire Department, the North Fork Fire Department, the Williams Lake Fire Department and the new Quick Response Fire Department at the QB plant.

There are county Fuel Reduction programs where people can learn how to protect their private properties from fire and there are Lemhi County Wildland Fire Evacuation Guidelines for what to include in 72 hour kits along with where to find emergency shelters.

Nelson recommended council participation in the Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) which includes all the key players; EMS, city and county government, law enforcement, Search and Rescue and Fire Departments. LEPC meets every quarter at the Brooklyn Annex where they have access to individual stations each connected to various local, regional and state resources. The purpose of the committee is to constantly update and refine disaster planning. Emergency Disaster Drills are staged every year, carefully designed to involve all emergency services entities. Plans are currently underway to establish a reverse 911 system that will be able to alert residents, by way of telephone and text messages, about any pending emergencies that could affect them.

Nelson said one of the most important resources is residents of the community and the more educated everyone is before an emergency the better since “…We are few.” She said there are all kinds of trainings available locally as well as on-line through the Federal Emergency Management Agency. She said the public has a responsibility to be as prepared as possible with proper training and proper insurance policies as well as pre-disaster mitigation plans and projects.

The tie that binds all the information components together is communication at every level. A great deal of work has been put into that aspect with a detailed Communications Plan, constantly updated communications equipment and updated resource manuals for city and county officials. The plan books catalog local, state and regional resources along with contact information. Nelson also provided council members with the step by step official process which needs to be implemented in order to secure a Disaster Declaration.

Nelson has information on various mitigation grants and all the preparedness trainings that are available. Her office telephone number is 208-756-2815 extension 266.

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